Marked [EverlyxSterling]

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Everly, Mar 18, 2015.

  1. [​IMG]

    Nobody knew where they came from, when, or why.. but everybody embraced them without question. The markings. Every child was born with an abstract marking somewhere on their body - usually the arm - and there was only one other person in the entire world that matched the mark. Finding your match was the same as finding your soul mate. You were meant to be together, and would be happy until the end of time because you were simply meant to. Some markings were more intricate than others. The upper classes tended to have what most considered more 'beautiful' markings. For some reason, those in the lower classes were more simplistic. This system made it easy for most to know where to go looking for their lover. Of course, there was the odd exception - an upper class person born with a simple lower class marking, or vice-versa. It was rare, but it did happen.

    Rarer still were those born without a marking at all. Those destined to live and die without love.

    Kassandra Adams was one of those rarities. She had been born to a set of middle-class parents who were on their second child. Already they had a son who was marked for the upper classes. They had assumed their luck would hold with the second. When it was discovered that Kassi was not going to follow in her brother's footsteps, she had been immediately shunned. Though she was thankful that her parents had not done as most did in their situation and simply cast her out to die or be taken in by some less savory people, she still wished that they felt the same affection for her as they did Daniel, her older brother. He had always told her that she would be fine, but there was some sort of.. wall there. Something that neither one could breach. They were different, too different. And so she had left when she was a young teen, trying to find her own way in the world and trying to escape the knowledge that she had no real place to be.

    That was how she had come here, to Milliane. The city was massive and full of people going about their day, each one secure in the fact that they would find their matches someday if they hadn't already. It had been all too easy to learn how to blend in and hide. Nobody even glanced at her when she walked down the street, and she was invisible as could be when she had to shop. The only person that ever seemed to notice her at all was her neighbor, and she wasn't sure if that was just because she had accidentally bumped into them when she was moving in or not.

    She lived on the seventh floor of an older-style apartment building, with one bedroom and a living room that was half a kitchen and half an empty carpeted space. It should have technically been a dining area, but she had taken the true living room and boarded up the windows and doorways to create a dark room to develop her pictures in. The only light in there was red, to protect the paper and film. She had strings dangling from the ceiling, holding pinned photographs that were not quite dry and ready. The rest of her apartment was fairly simple - a half-filled fridge with snacks inside, a plain bed with a few books on a bookshelf. There was only one piece of real sitting furniture, which was the wooden stool she used when she was painting.

    That was her true passion. Not her camera, but her brushes. She took pictures only to inspire herself to paint something better, and her apartment was littered with canvases, both used and not. And that was precisely why she was out tonight. It was late, but she was on a mission. In her hands she had a small canvas wrapped in paper to keep it hidden and dry. She had noticed an art gallery down the street the day before, and there had been a sign in the window requesting new artists. It was late enough now that she was convinced it would be closed and empty. Her plan was to simply leave the piece by the door. A silent contribution. She smiled a bit to herself, her bright blue eyes cast down as she avoided the attention of everybody she was passing on the sidewalk. Even her clothes seemed to blend with the shadows between streetlights - dark denim jeans, a baggy grey sweater and her brown hair was simply swept over one shoulder to keep it out of her face. Simple. She liked simple.

    She soon found the gallery and paused, glancing around. Well, nobody seemed to be paying attention.. She edged a bit closer and gently set the canvas down near the door, then turned with every intention to scamper back off home.
  2. The dim gallery brooded as it stood amongst its more conspicuous neighbors. The track lights within had been set to low power, and afforded only minimal illumination.

    But, as the young woman turned to make her escape, she saw her silhouette thrown in front of her upon the light-colored sidewalk. Startled, Kassi unintentionally spun around to face the light, instead of scurrying away as she intended. The initial blast of interior light slowly diminished to an even glow, and revealed a wide interior space with oak floors against white walls adorned with numerous paintings. Kassi briefly eyed the artwork and realized this was no ordinary gallery. The quality of the displayed works was masterclass. A pit formed in her stomach thinking she’d made a mistake. Kassi glanced down at her still-wrapped painting – possessed with half a mind to remove it before she embarrassed herself.

    However, before Kassi could consider retrieving her work, she heard footsteps from within the gallery. The steps came with a sharp, striking sound like someone was descending a flight of stairs. It was then that a man came into her view through the angled glass pane. He was tall with dark hair, and wore a black turtleneck sweater, along with dark grey trouser and flat-toed black dress shoes. He strode with firm purpose, with the confidence of a nobleman. As she gazed upon his figure, she noticed a collection of words were painted upon the glass before her. The words read:

    Mikel Stedler
    Fine Arts Gallery

    Stedler, she thought. It was an unusual name. The name reminded her of names she’d heard from the northern states, near the mountain region. Living among mountains would explain the man’s build, and his strong face looked as if it was cleft from granite. His hand held a short, flat stainless steel controller, and his finger pressed the central button. The gallery lights dimmed further, with the exception of one spotlight. It shone upon the far wall (opposite from where Kassi hid), and blasted a one meter diameter circle of bright, white light. The man walked to the end of a prism bench located before the spotlight and slowly sat down.

    Though the man moved with fluid energy, Kassi could see his eyes bore a weary expression – an exhaustion reserved for rituals proven fruitless time and time again. Long arms stretches outward in resignation, as the man produced three wrapped bundles from beneath the bench. The bundles were actually fabric sleeves, and Kassi could see each contained a painted canvas. The man removed the first painting and held it before him. It depicted a still-life of leaves and assorted natural rubbish. He slowly shook his head, and then placed it on the floor against the bench.

    Before removing the second painting, he opened a letter that seemed to have been attached. He held the handwritten note up to the light. The letters contents caused the man’s face to grow stern, and he angrily crumpled the note, tossing it to the side where it ricocheted off of a wall with ceramic masks. The cover for this painting shimmered iridescent in the light, and appeared to have been crafted from pure felt. He peeked inside, cautiously, and then recoiled as if having found a satchel of feces. He quickly placed the painting on the bench behind him.

    The man didn’t bother opening the third.

    His attention returned to the pure white circle still gleamed brightly before him with an intensity Kassi could feel. The man’s gaze seemed to penetrate past the physical partition, as if he was observing other times and distant places. Stark loneliness pervaded the scene; this handsome northman alone in his gallery.

    Kassi was surprised to have found herself still a voyeur to the whole affair. She quickly glanced up and down the street to ensure no one was approaching. The echo of a dog barking could be heard in the distance, and the coming mist began wisping, forming white clouds from the street surface. When Kassi returned her gaze back into the gallery, she was surprise to find the man was gone. Suddenly, the dim gallery lights fell and darkness blanketed the gallery. Through the glass, deep within, Kassi heard the sound of keys jingling and footsteps approaching.
    #2 Sterling, Mar 18, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  3. Kassi saw the light on the sidewalk and paused. Oh, no. She didn't want to be caught out here. The sidewalks were nearly deserted at this hour and there were no other likely suspects for leaving the painting. Reacting on instinct, she took a few steps to the left and ducked into a dark alley. This was better. Now, whoever was in the gallery could just pick up the package and she could leave once they had gotten it. So she waited.. and waited.. and waited. Nothing happened. She hesitated, then peeked out of the alley. The light seemed more dim now. Perhaps it hadn't been coming from the gallery at all. She bit her lower lip anxiously, glancing around, then finally risked stepping out into the light again and wandering to an angle where she could see inside.

    Oh. It had been the gallery.

    She tilted her head, noticing a figure sitting inside. He seemed displeased with whatever he was looking at, and she could see something sitting next to him that was vaguely square. A canvas? Hmm. Perhaps he was reviewing other submissions for the gallery. She glanced down at her own package thoughtfully. Honestly, she hadn't even left a note in there or any sort of marking on the packaging because she had only donated to help out the gallery and not get a commission or anything. Maybe that was silly, but oh well. It had been a spare, not one of her works that she refused to part with. She pondered that for a long moment, wondering if she should have given a larger piece since the gallery seemed to specialize in grand pieces, but her train of thought was interrupted by the sudden sound of keys.


    She snapped her head up and saw that the gallery was dark. He was leaving. Oh dear.. This was not a good position to be in for somebody who was invisible - even somebody who was preoccupied was bound to notice her if she was standing still on the sidewalk. Having no other choice, she turned and darted back into the alley. Her quick movements were not as precise as they should have been and she ended up tripping over a garbage can, but she managed to keep quiet for the most part.

    If he decided to open the painting upon finding it at his door, this is what he would find, signed only with 'Kassi' in the lower right hand corner:

  4. Mikel donned his long, wool coat, producing his keys from a side pocket. He jingled them on purpose, to hear the echo in his gallery. The sound reminded him of home, and the pageantry of Vintfest. Mikel missed his home. He missed the mountains and his family, whom he has not seen in almost a year. Mikel paused before the front door, taken by a quiet longing. His hand brushed up the sleeve of his left arm, and he examined his mark. It has been his constant companion since he could remember anything. Everyone in his life, everyone he has ever encountered, has conveyed the promise and the privilege that comes with having been marked. But, as Mikel turned to look at his dark gallery one last time, a sad shiver crept up his spine.

    Mikel opened the front door. The door itself was a work of art - solid Jarrah wood, honed to perfection to reveal its immaculate grain. As Mikel twisted the latch, the sound of metal on metal was joined by another sound. His lower leg brushed against something brittle and crinkled. He looked down and was surprised to find a painting wrapped in paper. Mikel lifted the painting glanced up and down the street, in hopes of identifying the owner.

    Part of him sighed, and wondered if this would be yet another addition to the pile of rejected art under the bench. Mikel brushed aside the paper covering and froze. His movements suddenly became quick, and he held the painting aloft to catch a ray of street light for a better view. What light caught the image was magnified a hundred-fold. Mikel stood with one foot on the sidewalk, one in the street, staring in wonder at the work in his hands. At the bottom, he read the only clue to the origin of the piece.

    "Kassi ..." he mutters to himself. He looks about, and cranes his neck down the adjacent alley. His eagle-like eyes pierce the gloom atop a calm and resolute face.


    But, he knows the effort is futile.

    He returns to his gallery and placed Kassi's painting on the wall. Mikel leaves, and re-locks the front door. With the press of a button, a sleek, black coup on the street hums to life in anticipation. Mikel pauses, and produces the master light control for the gallery. He activates the remote and a single spot light jumps to life. Within the white circle, Kassi's painting shines in blazing glory. Mikel smiles to himself, and enters the car to drive away.
    #4 Sterling, Mar 18, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  5. As soon as she heard the door open, Kassi froze. The man was coming outside. She was as still as could be, barely daring to breathe. If he found her now, then she'd have to explain herself, and that would be incredibly embarrassing. Plus, she didn't want to own up to leaving the painting and then running without word when he had obviously been inside. It seemed childish. She bit her lower lip anxiously, listening hard. There was a faint crinkle of paper, then silence. Well, it wasn't as if he was going to just say out loud whether he liked it or not. Still, it was making her nervous. What if he rejected it? She had never actually given her work out before, or showed it to anybody on purpose. Criticism wasn't something she was used to receiving. But, she reassured herself, he doesn't know I'm here. So he can't tell me he doesn't like it.

    She thought that she heard her name, which made her flinch slightly. How did..? Oh, right. Duh. She had signed it. Fidgeting just slightly, she shifted her weight and winced. Apparently when she fell, she had fallen on top of something. It was rather uncomfortable, but just when she thought of moving, there was a shadow at the entrance to the alley. She froze, thanking her lucky stars that she was wearing dark clothing. He soon popped back out of view and she slowly let out a silent breath. She resumed her listening, hearing the door again. Odd. Had he forgotten something? She tilted her head, hearing keys again and then a car, then a car door.

    Kassi waited a few more moments before standing up and brushing herself off. The dirt was easy enough to get rid of from her jeans, but her elbow was aching where she had landed on it. She examined it and found a new bruise. Great. She shrugged and let the sleeve fall, then slowly crept to the entrance of the alley. Though still nervous, she dared to peek out. No man. She relaxed and came out of hiding entirely, tucking her hair behind her ear as she wandered over to the gallery. Her suspicion was that her painting had wound up in the garbage can on the sidewalk, but there was nothing there. Huh. She glanced at the window and saw the spotlight was back on. Wait.. was that..?

    She blinked a few times and stepped closer to the window, in awe. That was her painting, hung up in a gallery! She smiled and curled her arms around herself in a silent, excited and self-congratulatory hug. That must mean he liked it, she reasoned. She had done the right thing. It looked so nice on the wall. She would have never guessed that a simple light on it would make the colors seem so bright. And looking at it from this far away made it more of a blur, which made it look like more of a photograph since she couldn't see the brush strokes. She adored it and would have stayed all night, but she knew better. Taking one last look with a smile, she turned and put her hands in her pockets, walking down the dark sidewalk in the direction of her apartment.
  6. Mikel's car sped past the darkened facades of a city asleep. He was used to being out at this late hour. In fact, he actually preferred it. Solitude was a coat easily worn by Mikel Stedler. It wasn't that he disliked people. No, just the opposite. Mikel was a deeply compassionate man, but the energy of others often became more than he could bear.

    At that moment his phone rang. Mikel glanced down, and the ID tag read, Torrey Jonsen. "Oh, fuck," he sighed. The phone kept ringing, and Mikel pulled to the side of the road. It was still ringing, and continued to ring, until ... silence. The device notified him a message had been left. With reluctance, he placed the phone near his ear.

    "Mikel! My man! Where are you, brother? We're at my place with some skin ladies, and they lookin' lonely. Stop on by, you know where to ... BEEEP."

    Torrey was a perpetual party atmosphere. He was the nephew of a major art dealer, and client of Mikel, who unfortunately had taken to calling him sporadically. Torrey thought Mikel was a friend, but he could not be more mistaken; Mikel despised the man. The emergence of the markings brought unequalled bliss and peace to the world. It elevated some to higher rank and prestige, but, it also created an underclass. Those in the population who were not "blessed" with a marking faced a life of isolation and possible persecution. Some were abused and abandoned, some were impressed into the sex trades. Mikel found it disgustingly ironic that a society who vilified unmarked individuals, at the same time, secretly desires such people for their forbidden status.

    Torrey was emblematic of a society Mikel often felt at odds. That is why he craved solitude. That's why the mountain air smelled cleaner than the city. Alone on a peak, he could shed, even for just a moment, the affect of everyone else's malfeasance.

    Mikel still held his phone. A thought had been bouncing in his brain since the gallery. He re-activated his phone and conducted a cursory search. He wanted to learn more about the artist who left the painting at his gallery.

    "K, K, K, ... Kanandra, Kaplan, ... Hm, no Kassi." Mikel assumed it was the artist's last name. That was a convention in the art industry, and helped artists propel the cult of themselves. Mikel was all too familiar with the role of money and ego in the art world. It could inspire, but it also brought out the worst in people, ... mark or no.

    Then a thought occurred to Mikel: what if Kassi wasn't a last name, but a first name?

    "K, K, ... Kaeri, Kamden, Kappi, Kassandra, ..." Mikel paused and stared intently at the name on his screen. Could Kassandra and Kassi be the same person?

    One thing was for certain, whoever Kassi was, she was sound asleep by now. He wasn't someone who liked to wake people from their sleep, and decided to pursue this mystery in the morning.

    As the black coup purred down the street toward his flat, Mikel couldn't fully concentrate in the road. Perhaps it was the annoying message from that worm, Torrey. No, he thought. It was a good feeling. It came from the donated street painting, now shining proudly in his gallery. It was special, and seemed to speak to the soul in a way that was genuine.

    When Mikel pulled up into his garage and crashed into bed, his last thoughts obsessed over the artist, and what type of person could create such visual delight.
  7. Kassi went back to her apartment, smiling all the while. He had liked it. Though she didn't know him, he was obviously the Mikel that had been named on the door. Who else but the owner would be in the gallery so late? That meant he had seen a lot of art, good and bad, yet he still liked hers enough to hang it up and not toss it in a garbage bin. That was pretty special. She smiled more and even hummed a bit to herself, turning into her apartment building and stepping into the elevator. The whole building was asleep at this hour, but she didn't mind. In fact, she preferred the silence. The elevator dinged on the seventh floor and she stepped out, pulling her key from the chain around her neck as she approached her door. 732. Home. She unlocked the door and stepped in, quickly closing and relocking the door behind her. Safe.

    She relaxed and tossed her key aside on a small table, then tugged her sweater up and off. Underneath she wore a tank top, which was much more comfortable in the warm apartment. She stretched, then wandered into her dark room to check the progress of her newest pictures. All done and ready to be used for paintings. Perfect. Tonight was a good night indeed. She left the dark room and went into her bedroom, slipping into pajamas before falling asleep with ease.

    The next morning she rose early, as usual. While putting together a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, she turned on the tiny television that she kept in the corner. It was mostly for background noise, which she liked, but it was currently on the news. She adjusted the heat of her stove and glanced over at the screen, barely paying attention until one of the men said 'unmarked'. What? That wasn't a usual topic for discussion. She frowned and put her eggs in a plate, wandering closer to the tv with breakfast in hand. It was a discussion panel. Apparently, groundbreaking new evidence suggested that the recent increase in disease in the world was because of the unmarked population. There were doctors there confirming it, and several people on the show were calling for strict measures. One even suggested finding the 'unmarked scum' and eliminating them entirely.

    Kassi just stared at the screen. How could a marking, or lack of one, cause disease? But.. it was on the news. Doctors agreed. People would agree. Times were changing. Was it more dangerous now, to be who she was? She looked down at her plate, then set it aside without taking a bite. Her appetite was gone. She was sad now, wondering if things really would change with this new information. Would laws come out? Would she be hunted down? She swallowed hard and changed into a pair of jeans and a plain blue shirt, grabbing her camera and a black jacket before heading out the door. All she wanted was time to think, and space. She needed the park.
  8. Mikel slept in later that morning than was his wont. He believed in regiment and discipline, that a small portion of order went a long way in bringing balance to one's life. This morning was different, though. He had found a painting last night that was perfect for his upcoming exhibition. In truth, he toyed with the notion of making it a center piece of the group. He'd been searching for weeks for work of that caliber, and even put up the sign that read "New Artists Welcome." Advertising was not his style, and made him feel like he was hawking his reputation. So, it was with great comfort that Mikel awoke with the knowledge that a prize painting had been delivered right to his door step.

    By an angel, he thought.

    Mikel roused himself and proceeded to prepare for the day. For though he had a superior painting in hand, he needed to learn who painted it. The most pragmatic reason was that, if he were to organize his other chromatic-impressionist work around Kassi's piece, Mikel would need to know more about the painting: about the subject, her technique, and intentions. However, when Mikel dug deeper, he realized he was also fascinated with learning more about the artist herself: who she was, what was her philosophy, and why did she leave such a gem on his doorstep.

    The car ride to the gallery was plagued with traffic, and Mikel circumnavigated the delay by taking a number of side streets. Each diverted him farther and farther from his destination, until he ended up near a complex of apartments. He knew he was close to the gallery, because he recognized Tam's Grocery.

    It's been forever since I've wandered in there, he thought. He was hungry, and he wished he had a more substantial breakfast. The Fine Art Gallery was a short stretch from the Grocery, and Mikel pulled to the side. He entered his Gallery and looked across the room at Kassi's painting. It gleamed twice as lovely in natural daylight.
    #8 Sterling, Mar 18, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2015
  9. As Kassi pulled on her jacket in the elevator, she wondered what sort of subject she should go for today. Normally she just took pictures of whatever caught her eye and it worked out pretty well, but she liked to have a basic idea. Should she go for a landscape? A portrait? Those were always harder, because people tended to notice if you got close enough for a really good photograph. Still, she was sneaky, and didn't mind far-off pictures because she could add detail from memory if necessary. By the time the elevator dinged at the bottom floor, she still hadn't made up her mind. She shrugged and slung her camera bag over her shoulder, the camera already in her hands in case she saw anything inspiring on the way to the park.

    She stepped out into the morning sun and turned, automatically walking down the sidewalk in the right direction. To be honest, she didn't pay attention to anybody else walking, though she knew there were others there. People walked by the building all the time. She just kept her head down, glancing around occasionally to make sure she wasn't missing a great opportunity for a photo. It wasn't until she knew she was passing the gallery that she paused a bit and looked up. Her painting. It was still there. She didn't realize that Mikel was already inside, so she took a chance and lingered for a moment, the same happy smile lighting up her face. So wonderful..

    After a few moments, she turned and continued walking along, humming to herself. So it hadn't been a dream. Her painting was really hung up there. It was almost enough to make her forget what she had seen on the news that morning. Almost. She turned down a side street, stepping into the city park a few minutes later. It always pleased her that it was close to her apartment. So much green so close could only serve as inspiration. She took a deep breath to relax, fiddling with her camera settings absently as she paused to take a picture of an elderly marked couple who were sitting together on a bench. Oh, how she longed for that sort of companionship. They just seemed so happy together.
  10. The computer on Mikel's desk was taking its time to warm up this morning. Much like himself, it was not overly ambitious today, but the few tasks it engaged would be important. Mikel's work desk was made from a solid plank of Säaro hornwood. Dense as rock, the material was notoriously difficult to shape and plane, normally breaking tools fabricated from lesser metals. The plank belonged to his grandfather, who spent two years of his life harvesting it. It was considered a family heirloom, and was one of his most prized possessions.

    Mikel spread his papers over the desk's clean, unblemished surface. There were a number of things that needed to be sorted out before lunchtime. Though, if truth be told, lunch could not come soon enough. His hunger had only increased upon leaving the car, and the sight of Tam's Grocery gave him ideas. Still, that was not for sometime. Mikel applied himself to reading a handful of messages, promising himself he would sate his hunger afterward as a reward.

    The first message was from his mother:

    Miki! How are you, Daer? Father sends his love, as does Elleana. She's finished reading that book by Edvard, and said she returned it to your room. Which reminds me, I've been meaning to tell you that we're converting your bedroom here at the estate into a study. I really hope you don't mind, it's just that it's been so long since you've visited and how infrequent. Anyway, I'm sure you'll love what your father's done. Oh, and I have exciting news! Elleana has decided to pursue her Seeking! She's going to roam after HIM, just like I did with your father. Must run in the blood ... speaking of which, have you felt the calling yet? Even a little? You know I love you, Daer, but maybe you should focus less on that gallery, and more on your mate. You work too hard, Miki. Maybe you should visit a Wiseman ... He might be able to help you focus your mind and attune your spirit. I can talk to Wiseman Konig, who sends his regards, or I can find a Wiseman closer to you. You tell me. I love you, Mikel!

    She wrote every week, checking on Mikel and keeping him up-to-date on the dramas, both within and without the estate. His parents were older, and were marked at a very early age. As children, their families lived unusually close to one another - just a few miles distant actually. Granted, being in the mountains made traveling even a short distance hazardous. But, his ancestral regions had been settled for generations, and a network of safe, stable roads reached nearly every village household. So, when the time came for her Seeking, the ritual lasted a mere two days. She claims she wasn't even winded when she climbed the stairs to the Stedler manor house. As a result, Mikel's mother retained a distorted impression of what the common person endured during a Seeking, and never understood how others could fuss over the process. And, in spite of the great love Mikel felt for his mother, he could not help but scowl at her incessant meddling.

    His mother's message left him feeling sour, which did not mix well with his hunger that had only grown. Mikel rose from his desk and pushed his arms through the sleeves of his jacket. It was lunchtime, early or not. Mikel exited the gallery, and flipped a sign reading "Back Soon", and made his way to Tam's Grocery.
    #10 Sterling, Mar 19, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
  11. Kassi took a few more pictures of the couple, having decided they were a perfect subject for her next painting. Right before the couple stood, the man leaned over and kissed the woman on the forehead. It was such a touching gesture, but too fleeting to get a photograph. They stood and walked off, holding hands contentedly. Kassi smiled as she watched them go, then put her camera away. That last pose they had done.. it was perfect. She felt the familiar craving to get it onto a canvas, but obviously she was out and couldn't do so. Instead, she pulled a sketchbook and pencil out of her camera bag. It was filled with hurried sketches, some more complete than others. All things she had seen and wanted to capture but hadn't been able to take a picture. Some of the more finished sketches were signed, and there were many that had been torn out and just stuffed back in after she painted them, because she wanted to keep them.

    Holding the book in her left hand, Kassi began sketching with her right. As she did, she turned and left the park. She was so used to the route that she didn't even have to glance up as she went along the sidewalk. Anybody who was walking simply went around her, enabling her to make her way along worry free. She hummed to herself, her blue eyes focused on the pencil markings as she created a vague outline before adding details and shading. This was going to be such a good one! She smiled to herself, adding more as she automatically turned into the grocery store to pick up lunch on her way home.

    As she rounded an aisle on her way to the back of the store where the deli was, she collided hard with somebody else that she hadn't even notice. Startled, she yelped and stepped back, tripping over a stray can and ending up on her backside. She had dropped the book, sending loose papers flying all around the floor in a swirling mess. Oh dear.. She blinked and looked up, brushing her hair out of her face as she realized that she had collided with a man. He looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't decide why.

    "I'm so sorry, I wasn't looking.." she said quietly, embarrassed. Her father would have whacked her upside the head for not paying attention like that. She sat up and started attempting to gather the papers back up in some semblance of order.
  12. Mikel's muscular frame absorbed the impact entirely. Were it not for the sound of Kassi's fall and the spilling of her drawings, Mikel might not have noticed a collision had occurred. He turned and assessed the sprawling mess before him. Mikel's hand absentmindedly returned a can to its home on the shelf, and then quickly knelt down to assist the poor woman.

    "Daer me. I'm so sorry ... Here, let me help you?" Mikel's voice rode the air with a rich baritone, and his vowels turned up slighting to betray the slightest northern accent. Though his hands were massive, they handled the delicate papers gently with professional care. As Mikel collected the sheets, he glanced at them momentarily. This woman was clearly an artist, and might be offended by his interest ... artists can be a sensitive lot. Mikel want to retrieve the last sheets farthest from Kassi. He stood and picked up the last drawing. It was the sketch Kassi created just minutes prior. It showed a couple walking hand-in-hand. The charcoal defined both figures with single gestural sweeps. There was no separation between the drawn pair, every aspect of their bodies was entwined with the other. It was beautiful to behold. Mikel forgot himself and stood transfixed before the image. He found it hard to breath for a moment, but then recovered with a short exhale.

    The grocery keeper, Tam, worked the food counter this afternoon while his partner, Henny, managed the store. Tam's voice called out in a loud voice that pierced the aisles. "Stedler! Mikel Stedler! Order's up ..." Mikel's head turned at the sound of his name. "That's me, I'm afraid," he informed the scattered woman.

    He offered his hand to Kassi to help her up, like a true gentleman. "May I?"
    #12 Sterling, Mar 19, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2015
  13. "Thank you," she murmured, surprised that he was helping. He was kind, she decided, but she still wasn't sure why he seemed familiar. Oh well. Probably just somebody she had noticed on the street before. She finished collecting what she could reach, then looked up as Tam called out an order. Mikel Stedler. Huh. That name rang a bell somehow.. She tilted her head, then glanced up at him and took his hand, standing quickly. Right as she regained her footing, she realized. Mikel Stedler was the name on the gallery door. She thought he seemed familiar because she had seen him - last night! Oh dear. She paled a bit, but covered it with a grateful smile as she tucked her papers into her bag.

    "Thank you, again," she said, carefully taking the drawings from his hands. She started to say something else, then paused as she heard a familiar laugh behind her.

    "Tripped again, Kassi? You know, I'm starting to think you never pay attention to where you're going." It was Henny. Kassi turned and blushed a bit, about to stammer out some sort of excuse, but she was cut off again. "Ah, it's alright. At least you aren't covered in paint this time. Last time it looked like you had stuck your hands in rainbows!"

    "Don't remind me," Kassi said, shaking her head with a bit of a smile. "I'm just here to get lunch today," she added by way of explanation. She enjoyed the short conversations. It was nice to interact with people a little.
  14. "Kassi?"

    Mikel had also heard a familiar, yet unknown name. But, Mikel immediately brought the puzzle together in his mind. Yes, he thought. The art, the paint, this neighborhood. It's too much of a coincidence; this must be the artist whom he has been searching for. When she took his hands, he found them soft, yet strong and taut from constant use. She had artist's hands, and he could spot them anywhere. However, Mikel wasn't paying attention to the woman's hands; he admired her smile when she replied to the grocery keeper. He thought the smile was shy and effacing, and that made it all the more magnetic to Mikel. The woman's smile reminded Mikel of a impossibly beautiful creature hidden behind a curtain, only offering breath-taking glimpses as if by accident.

    Mikel shook off the dreamy cloud that had formed about him, and snapped his mind back to the moment at hand. He needed to engage this woman and get some answers. Mikel set his cobalt eyes upon the woman.

    "You're Kassi?" Mikel asked softly, with kind insistence. "My name is Mikel Stedler. I operate a gallery just down the street from here. Last night, a painting with your name on it was left on my door step ... do you know anything about this?"
  15. Uh oh. She heard her name from behind her and turned away from Henny, who was already walking off to do something else anyway. Mikel had the sort of thinking expression that Kassi herself had fairly often, so it was easy to recognize. He seemed almost lost in thought for a minute, but then he apparently snapped out of it because he pressed on and mentioned the painting that she had so childishly ditched on his doorstep.

    "Oh.. uh.. yes," Kassi admitted, a bit ashamed. She hadn't expected him to piece that together. Now what was she supposed to do? Explain herself, of course. "I saw the sign in your window requesting new work. I wasn't sure if it was really gallery worthy, but I saw you hung it up, so I guess it wasn't too terrible," she explained, giving him half a smile as she shrugged and put her bag back on her shoulder.

    She looked up at him, noticing that he didn't seem upset about the fact that she had basically just dropped a canvas by his door and run away. He seemed.. curious. Well, she supposed that made sense. Anybody would be curious about random paintings showing up, even if they did ask for them. She wondered if she should apologize, but she didn't want to ramble on.
  16. "... wasn't too terrible?" Mikel repeated to himself. He couldn't believe what he was hearing from this woman.

    A bemused face greeted Kassi above broad shoulders as the art dealer regarded Kassi as something of an anomaly. How could someone so talented be almost ... unaware of their potential? She articulated herself properly, and although see came across as a touch flaky, she seemed quite intelligent. No, he though, she seems excessively nervous for some reason. He immediately banished the notion that HE was the reason for her discomfort, since she admitted to not realizing the quality of art in his gallery before depositing her painting. He never considered himself as being of any importance to the local or regional art scene. Mikel Stedler was a simple man, firm in his beliefs and sense of aesthetic value. He possessed a probing mind that could discriminate powerfully, scouring visual media for meanings and connections no one else could fathom. That's why he became a curator in the first place; many of his friends at University practiced the fine arts, and needed someone to administrate their initial exhibitions. Since then, Mikel has excelled with his gallery, specializing in selecting the finest artists with innate talent others would kill for. That meant, however, that accommodations had to be made for certain off-the-wall personalities. Artists were known to be indulgent and impulsive, ... yet, the woman before Mikel displayed none of these traits. She was an enigma.

    Despite his confusion, he was determined to move the situation forward. Part of being a curator involves delving into the psychology of the artistic, and understanding their thoughts, motivations, and processes. Inevitably, the artwork's internal qualities were a reflection of the artist's personality. When Mikel dwelt on the quandary before him, he came to the conclusion that Kassi was somehow misunderstood, and ... something else. Embattled, perhaps? This notion settled into Mikel's heart with an eager firmness, for it was a personality he could relate with. Mikel was used to escaping from everything by reaching for the mountain tops, and perhaps this Kassi escapes in her own way, and for her own reasons. Mikel grew a crooked smile of his own, and his brows furrowed a fraction of an inch. He waved the air, as if dispelling smoke, then placed his mighty hands on the sides of Kassi's shoulders with gentle firmness. Mikel's cobalt pressed into Kassi's clear blue, and he felt much happiness having found this quirky, young woman.

    "My dear, ... it was marvelous! What you captured, the scene, the feeling, ... the sense of inter-personal dynamic." Mikel bent lower, to no longer tower over the poor woman. His face was an much closer now, and a kindness radiated from his features as he spoke. "My Daer, you captured life itself. That is a wondrous gift. I've been canvassing half the Milliane looking for someone just like you." A warmness washed over Mikel's expression, for he felt lighter every moment he spent with the new woman. "I'm very glad I found you ... I would like to speak with you in private."
  17. Kassi stared at Mikel in surprise. Marvelous? Really? He thought she had a wonderful gift. That.. was odd. She wasn't really sure if she believed him at first. In all honesty, she had selected that painting because she was not as possessive of it as the others. It had been done a year ago, and she had several others in the same color scheme and style, but she had since moved on. Painting was all that she really did - it was her life, and so it changed. She loved trying to mimic the styles of other artists and try things from different perspectives. As a result, she had no set style that could be easily recognized as most artists did. Her pieces tended to vary as much as snowflakes. The painting she had given to the gallery was just a simple piece, not one that she refused to part with. Was it truly as good as he said? It was so hard to believe! But.. maybe. He was a professional, after all.

    "I'm glad that you like it," she managed after a few moments, still surprised, but pleased. "I've never actually shown my work to anybody before," she admitted afterward, shrugging slightly. Her stomach rumbled at the same time that Tam called out Mikel's order yet again. Oh dear. They both had to have lunch. She pondered for a moment, not having much experience talking with strangers. Perhaps he wanted to discuss the painting more. It made sense. She wasn't sure what she could tell him that he didn't already know, though.

    "I think Tam is going to throw your food at you if you don't get it," she said with a slight laugh. "I'm going to get lunch here too. If you want, we can eat together and talk..?"
  18. "That's excellent news!" the man chirped happily. "Why don't we return to my gallery and we can discuss details there over lunch." Mikel has met with many people during the course of his station as curator of the Fine Arts Gallery. He's taken an even greater number of prospective clients and artists to lunch. But, Mikel has never combined the two before now. Mikel's office was the only practical place where he could entertain guests. Of course, they could squat in the back alley, but that would never do. Mikel's office was his den, his sanctuary, and he rarely allowed the outside world to infiltrate the perimeter of the gallery space. There, among the white walls hung with images of beauty and grace, Mikel relied upon the gallery as a distracting buffer. He privately wondered why he suggested meeting there so freely and openly. Indeed, Mikel cannot deny that this woman was having a strange effect upon him - an effect he cannot put his finger on. All he knew was that the effect pleased him greatly.

    Mikel approached the serving counter and claimed his two bags. He spoke privately with Tam, who nodded and grimaced pleasantly in his curiously personal manner. Mikel returned to Kassi with the two bags. "So, here's what we'll do," he began, "I've started a tab with Tam here. Please order whatever you wish, and I'll pay. Really, it's my pleasure. I need to go ahead to straighten things up a bit. So, once you have your lunch, just stop by the gallery and come upstairs. I'll be waiting for you inside." He smiled broadly and began to walk past Kassi, when he stopped himself. "Oh, just in case you're wondering ... I'm not a pig. Only one of these bags is for me. The other is for my business partner. He'll be meeting you as well, and I value his input greatly. I cannot lie ... he can be a tough customer." Mikel looks down the aisle toward the glowing window through which cars rush past lazily. "Alright? See you in a few." And with that, Mikel departed the aisle with a slight spring in his step.
  19. "Alright," she agreed easily as he suggested discussing things at the gallery. It sounded better than standing around a grocery store and chatting while munching. She hadn't really considered that part. Usually she just took her food home or ate on a park bench while watching people. She walked with him to the deli, then blinked as Mikel informed her that he would pay. Before she could even squeak out a protest, he had already assured her that it was his pleasure and just kept talking until she was left staring after him. Just like that, gone. She felt like she had just survived some sort of whirlwind. Huh. Okay.. so now she was getting lunch for free, which was awesome, and then meeting with two people.. one of which may not like her painting at all. That was not as awesome. She pondered that, then went over to the counter and placed her order.

    As she waited for her food, she gazed out the window thoughtfully. This was probably going to be the longest conversation she had ever had outside of her immediate family. Strange. She wondered if perhaps she should bring another piece, as a peace offering for Mister Tough Customer. Perhaps not. She considered it for a few moments longer, glancing up only when Tam told her that her food was ready. As she picked up her bag, she made up her mind. Her apartment was just as close as the gallery. She left the grocery store and went left, running along to her building. Up the elevator, into her apartment, then back out again to do it all in reverse on her way to the gallery. She had decided to simply tuck one of her small pieces into her camera bag. That way she had it just in case, but she wasn't forced to acknowledge it otherwise.

    She ended up walking in to the gallery about fifteen minutes after Mikel had left her in the grocery store, because all she had ordered was a salad. It'd be nice to eat. She often forgot to do so when she was obsessed with a piece of work, which was why her cupboards were so poorly stocked. Once she was inside the gallery, though, the meeting slipped right out of her mind. She looked around, interested by the pieces on the walls. Some were quite fascinating.
  20. art_gallery_wall.jpg

    Upon the walls, and at every turn, Kassi encountered artwork that made her soul sing. Many of the white walls held single, framed paintings on canvas. The paintings appear organized by a general theme, however loosely defined. One wall contained formal portraits, some in color, others in black and white. One portrait of a woman was in sepia, with devout and loving eyes that seemed to break through the dark-brown tone. A far wall of mortared brick contained a number of artworks of varied size and media. These pieces combined alternate processes in achieving color variation from different source materials. One acrylic for one tall painting had been produced by furnace-blasting iron until the essential powder remained, then mixed with tempura, gesso, and other hardeners.

    Kassi saw her own painting, and nearby a foam placard that read "Chromatic Impressionism". To either side of Kassi's work were many others trying to create the same effect of rendering form with color, but failed. By comparison, these lesser paintings came across as either sloppy or simply pretty pictures. In front of Kassi's work was a sculpture bench, twisted and prism-like of black-polished wood. Facing the long side of the bench was a collection of twelve ceramic masks, each bearing a different emotive state: Anger, Happiness, Sadness, Lust. The front of each mask shone blood red in the stark light, then faded to a maroon color at the edges. The masks felt out of place to Kassi here in the gallery; someone obviously "created" them, but they seemed paganistic, almost archeological, compared to the work clearly made by present-day hands and sensibilities. Another foam placard floated near the masks reading, "The 12 States of Karma,".

    A final section of the gallery gave Kassi pause. It was a series of twenty-five hand-sized portraits of markings. They hung on the wall in a grid, and each varied in size and design. They were portraits of considerable quality with excellent tone. One portrait, the center square, was different. Upon closer inspection it was not a photograph at all, but a shadow box. Behind the glass in the box was a thin, dried sheet of human skin. It had been splayed like a butterfly, and exhibited a marking.


    Luckily for Mikel, organizing his office was a breeze. Ordinarily efficient and tidy, cleaning his work space took a total of five minutes. The sound of 8.5 x 11 sheets clicking into neat rectangles took seconds, but filing them in their proper place accounted for the remaining duration. But, that was for his grandfathers plank. Mikel intended for he and Kassi to eat and chat at the circular fiber-pressed table behind him. He applied himself with double measure to remove boxes of files, samples of materials, and piles upon piles of canvas submissions. He found himself standing with a hefty pile of worthless art and chuckled quietly. I've no place to put this. He cast about concerned, for if he intended on impressing this skittish, young woman, it would require offering as welcoming a space as possible; that meant removing all the rejects. Mikel carried the payload of dreadful work to the window and dropped them.

    Mikel scuffed his hands together briskly. "There, ... that's better."

    Then, he remembered the other meeting attendant for this interview. "Gün?" Mikel called out, then calling louder, "Güüüün?" He worried he might call too loudly and disturb the patrons he saw when he arrived. He hushed his voice and called down a hallway, then an electrical closet. "Where was he?" Mikel wondered. Well, I'm sure he'll arrive at some point. Mikel looked at the time, and wondered where Kassi could be. Perhaps she changed her mind? No, he thought, she didn't seem the sort to back out. He cast a last, appraising glance at his office and, after feeling that it was presentable, took to the steps and descended into the gallery space.

    There, Mikel saw Kassi almost immediately. She stared at wonderment at the menagerie of color surrounding her. "Hello, Kassi. Shall we go upstairs? I promise the art will still be here when we conclude our meeting." He placed two fingers over his heart. "Promise."